The Mt Etna variety may be the most common type of fig grown in northern zones.
One place this fig can be traced to is Mt Etna, Sicily where it is known as Mongibello, beautiful mountain, presumably combining the Sicilian Mungibeddu with the Italian Montebello.
The Mt Etna fig can also be traced to Provence, France and apparently to virtually every other country or region in and around the Mediterranean basin. Mt Etna is a very reliable, productive, and flavorful fig that goes by many, many names.
Mt Etna figs traded or sold under different names have been shown in one instance to be genetically slightly different from one another, while most named Mt Etnas are apparently synonymous.
If planted outdoors and killed to the ground by severe cold over winter, Mongibello is the cultivar most likely to ripen fruit on new growth in summer.
Mt Etna and the Mt Etnas: The purple/red berry punch Mt Etna fig variety may be the most common type of fig grown in ground along the US eastern seaboard from Boston to Baltimore because of the ability to ripen fruit the summer after severe winters.
Various forms of protection can help most fig cultivars avoid total top-kill. One simple method: in fall, press low limbs flat to the ground and cover with layers of leaves, wood chips, or dirt.
A bountiful fig with a wonderful grape-strawberry flavor, Mongibello begins to ripen a couple weeks after the earliest cultivars, all things equal. Of any fig cultivar grown in ground in cold zones, robust Mongibello seems best able to ripen fruit each year.
These figs are known and distributed under many names, including: Hardy Chicago, Takoma Violet, Gino’s Black, Sal’s EL/GS, Maryland Berry, Zingarella, Rossi Dark, Marseilles Black, Keddie, Malta Black, Black Greek, Spanish Unknown, Dark Portuguese, Salem Dark, Black Bethlehem, Macool, St Rita, Kesarani, Sicilian Black BC, Lebanese Red (Bekaa), Ginoso, Danny’s Delight, Jersey Fig, Martini, Don Fortis, Hardy Pittsburgh, Hardy Hartford, Mt Etna Unknown, GM #11 (Sicilian Dark), Abba, NJ Red, San Donato (Calabria), Dominick’s, Bari …
A couple links (from below) with good information on the subject:
It may be that the historical name for what has come to be called the Mt Etna fig is Black Provence. At least it seems that’s what it was called around the turn of the century, a century ago, since 1890 at least. What it may have been called before that, who knows. Maybe some hamlet deep in Switzerland knows.
Except, it’s not lost: it’s “Mt Etna” seems extremely likely. The above is by Bill Hankin, 2001: http://web.archive.org/web/200312141…a/Inv_fig.html
Provence is a region in France ranging from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, with its largest city as Marseilles. Thus, Black Marseilles, where the fig was surely taken to be sold.
Unfortunately the only Black Provence figs circulating in the US may be mistakenly labeled Black Ischia or VDB or even Negretta.
Also, see Ira Condit, Fig Varieties, 1955:
Nice sits on the Mediterranean Sea at the edge of the Alps in Provence.
Hugh N. Starnes and John F. Monroe, authors of The Fig in Georgia: Second Report (1907) describe Provence Black in ways that make it sound like it is Mt Etna, aka Marseilles Black, as they also call it.